Audiobook Review: The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

10 05 2013


2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Bk. 2)

Read by Tara Sands

Listening Library

Length: 11 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: YA Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Dead Tossed Waves is another unique spin on undead literature full of vivid images, well conceived characters and a darkly beautiful world. Carrie Ryan manages to change the voice of her series seamlessly while still delivering on the promises set up in the first novel.

Grade: B+

There are three major aspects of Zombie Apocalypse literature, Zombie Outbreak, with humanity dealing with the initial outbreak, Zombie Apocalypse, dealing with the first generation Survivors of the initial onslaught, and Societal Adaptation, how society generations later has changed to live with the realities of an undead world. I am always quite fascinated by the Societal Adaptation aspect. It probably one of the least explored Zombie Apocalypse themes. We have seen many different takes, from societies built on fear and superstition, to others almost making the act of hunting zombies a rite of passage. I have always been fascinated by religious adaptations to zombies explored in literature, and wondered often about how I would form my own apocalyptic death cult. This is often how I spend my time. So many apocalyptic death cults simply do it wrong. Now, I get the accessorizing of the de-jawed zombies on chains. That’s pretty badass, but must they wear black or white ceremonial garb. It seems like you would just stick out like a sore thumb. I think my ritual death cult would use forest or jungle tones. For us, our castes would be named after the greats of Zombie fiction like Keene, Maberry, and Grant as part of a pantheon under the all powerful god Romero. Each caste of the cult would have their own patron saint. The Maberry caste would walk around in carpet body armor, while the Keene caste would perform regular exorcisms on their Zombie accessories. The Grant Cast would be a group of disgraced scientist attempting to create a zombie Red Heifer and Golden Zombie Calf. Last year, for Zombie Awareness Month I listened to The Forest of Hands and Feet, and based on that knew that Carrie Ryan should definitely have a place among the patron saints of my death cult but I plan on waiting until finishing the series to see exactly how her caste’s belief structure should manifest itself, because when organizing an apocalyptic death cult, research is key.

Gabry has lived her entire life within the safety of her small harbor town. Her mother, once a stranger to the town, whose strangeness is a source of shame for Gabry, runs the lighthouse and keeps the shores safe from the undead that wash up with the tide. Gabry always feared leaving the walls of her town, but one spontaneous decisions leads to disaster and forever alters her life and unlocks the secrets of her past. It’s no secret that I loved The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I was actually quite shocked by how much I loved it. That being said I was still a bit hesitant about continuing the series. I thought that the first novel of this series was so brilliant and different that it would be nearly impossible to continue it without a major change in tone. Well, I was right. What I wasn’t right about was that it would affect my overall enjoyment of the novel. Carry Ryan does something that is quite hard to do, complete alter her world, and her voice, yet still create a novel that is almost as compelling and heartbreaking as the original. Now, I still have to say I like the original better, but The Dead Tossed Waves is a totally worthy follow-up.  Ryan explores a whole new aspect of the world she created. In many ways, The Dead Tossed Waves in The Forest of Hands and Teeth told in reverse, instead of a novel about an isolated young women discovering there is more to the world than she thought, The Dead Tossed Waves starts as a broader novel, and slowly becomes more intimate and personal. The key to this story is the personal development of Gabry, as she learns more about who she is and what she is capable of. My only complain about the novel is the repetitious moments of self doubt by Gabry. Every time something bad happens, and I promise you, a lot of bad things happen, Gabry went on a huge pity fest listing the many reasons why it was all her fault and how she simply is responsible for all the world’s woes. It was probably true to character, but it became a bit much at times and influenced the pacing of the novel. And of course, there was the dreaded lovey dovey angsty love triangle. It also sometimes became a bit much, but it was just original enough where I didn’t feel like bashing my head in with a ball peen hammer. The Dead Tossed Waves is not as much of a standalone as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, there is a definite direction for the next novel, and an intriguing one at that. In fact, my original plan was to wait and review the finale for next years Zombie Awareness Month, but I’m not quite sure I can wait that long. The Dead Tossed Waves is another unique spin on undead literature full of vivid images, well conceived characters and a darkly beautiful world. Carrie Ryan manages to change the voice of her series seamlessly while still delivering on the promises set up in the first novel.

One of the things I loved about the original of this series was Vane Millon’s exotic and totally unique narration. I will say, part of my hesitancy about this series is that each novel has a different narrator. Yet, as each novel seems to come from a different perspective character, this decision makes sense. While Tara Sands has more of a traditional YA narrator style, I felt her voice was appropriate to the setting. While the perspective character of the first novel needed to stand out, Gabry’s attempts to fit in with her society made Sands approach appropriate. Sands delivers a smart, well thought out performance. Her characters were strong and distinct, but more importantly, she managed to capture the rhythms and poetry of Ryan’s writing, I especially enjoyed her delivery of the climatic scene. She filled it with just the right amount of tension, never rushing the narrative but still creating a sense of urgency. She somehow managed to tap into my inner fear of heights and allowed me to keep holding my breath until I knew the outcome of the character’s crazy adventure. My only point of contention was with the pronunciation of the name Elias. Not that it was pronounced wrong, just not as I expected, and it took me a but to put the sound and name together  This is my first experience with Tara Sands’ work, and I felt she really delivered.

Audiobook Review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

16 11 2012

The Kill Order by James Dashner (The Maze Runner Prequel)

Read by Mark Deakins

Listening Library

Length: 9 Hrs 59 Minutes

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Kill Order wasn’t a bad book, just unfocused and full of uninteresting apocalyptic clichés while neglecting the interesting themes. I’m sure fans of the series will find value in learning a bit about how the world of The Maze Runner series came to be, but for me, the few interesting moments kept me drudging through this tale. I was expecting a novel dealing with cool things like sun flares, and instead I got another apocalyptic road trip where only our heroes can save the world.

Grade: C

Sometimes I make weird book reading decisions. Sometimes I think it would be better if someone just asked me my likes and dislikes and just chose my books for me, as long as the person choosing is a flesh and blood person and not some antonymous artificial intelligence bent on world domination like Skynet or Amazon’s recommendation engine.  About a year ago I attempted to listen to the first boom in James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, based on recommendations of many people. I only lasted an about an hour. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps, it just didn’t fit my mood. I know part of the reason I didn’t engage with it was I found the narration a bit flat and too old sounding for a novel featuring young adults. Usually I give flat and boring narration a little while, since often a narrator will grow into the story but, this one I cut short pretty early and moved on quickly. So, advance a good year later, and I start hearing things about a novel called The Kill Order. I read the description and it sounded like an interesting, post apocalyptic novel dealing with sun flares, plague and general apocalyptic mayhem. Since I’m a big fan of apocalyptic mayhem of all sorts, this piqued my interest. Then I discovered the novel is a prequel to The Maze Runner series. This of course, concerned me. There are two types of prequels, ones that are dependent on the source material, and ones that aren’t. So, I checked with someone who read the novel, who assured me that outside of the prologue, I really didn’t need to know anything about the series. Then, I read some reviews, most of which wee complaining that the book didn’t give them any information on what happened to certain series characters. While this was probably frustrating for fans of the series, for me this was good news. So, I said, what the hell, let’s go for it. What’s the worse that could happen?

So, I’m just going to straight out and say it, I didn’t really like The Kill Order all that much. Not that it was a bad book, just one that I never really engaged with. The annoying thing was, it had flashes of really cool moments, and these flashes kept me interested enough to keep listening. Yet, they just never seemed to play out in a way that would save the book for me. The Kill Order is a strange mix of apocalyptic fiction and young adult science fiction that never really gives enough focus to either aspect. The story is about two teenagers Mark and Trina, whose village is attacked by strange flying machines, and men in strange Hazmat style suits, who shoot strange darts at the village’s denizens. Mark and Trina, along with an aging soldier, escape the attack, and decide to travel to find the source of these attacks. Of course, they discover the darts contain a strange virus, turning those infected violent and unpredictable. Along the way, they discover a young girl who may hold the key to combating the virus. As you can see by the description I give, there are a lot of oft used apocalyptic themes in The Kill Order. It’s an apocalyptic road trip, full of deep governmental conspiracies, with our heroes gaining access to top secret information, and discovering a potential source of immunity. Add to this weird tech, plague riddled not quite zombies but sort of weird ragey, attacky humans and the discovery of immunity, this was like many other apocalyptic novels I have read. Except it wasn’t. It was weird, unfocused and sort of meh. Then, there were Mark’s dreams. Through a series of dream sequences, we get to experience Mark and Trina’s journey from the start of the Apocalyptic even that started it all. These parts I actually liked. While using some similar themes, this part was unique and actually offered some new ground in the apocalyptic subgenre. I liked the use of sun flares and melting ice caps, as opposed to the typical man made sources of the apocalypse. Yet, these moments were never fully explores, and Dashner would send us right back to the heart of the tale, a heart that barely offered an interesting murmur. The Kill Order wasn’t a bad book, just unfocused and full of uninteresting apocalyptic clichés while neglecting the interesting themes. I’m sure fans of the series will find value in learning a bit about how the world of The Maze Runner series came to be, but for me, the few interesting moments kept me drudging through this tale. I was expecting a novel dealing with cool things like sun flares, and instead I got another apocalyptic road trip where only our heroes can save the world.

After my attempt to listen to The Maze Runner series fell flat, I became hesitant to listen to any audio narrated by Mark Deakins. Then, I listened to The Dog Stars which I though Deakins performed wonderfully. In The Kill Order, Deakins continued in his low key, evenly paced style, that made me want to pull up my blanket and go nappy nap. I really like Deakin’s voice, even if I don’t think it quite fits a young adult novel. Yet, his pacing is so slow, so deliberate, that is sucked some of the life out of the story. With an introspective novel like The Dog Stars, his style can be effective, but in an action filled science fiction novel, it just didn’t work for me. I think, with a different narrator I may have liked the novel more, and with a different novel, I may have enjoyed Deakin’s narration, but then, I’m sort of strange.

This Review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse Series. For more post, click on the banner below.

Audiobook Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

30 05 2012

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Read by Vane Millon

Listening Library

Length: 9 Hrs 31 Min

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: The Forrest of Hands and Teeth exceeded all my expectations. It’s a beautifully told tale that takes many risks, most of which pay off well. It has a classic, almost historical feel, which you don’t find often in Zombie fiction.

Grade: A-

One of the most fascinating topics when discussing Post Apocalyptic fiction and the potentials of a Post Apocalyptic culture is religion. I had a very religious upbringing, and while I don’t spend nearly as much time in church or other religious pursuits today, religion still greatly influences many aspects of my life, Religion often get lots of bad press, unfortunately, because it also has the ability to uplift human kind, to make them better than their animalistic nature. The problem is that religion is often abused. Some of the worst atrocities and injustices committed by men where done in the name of religion. There are many great and diverse Post Apocalyptic novels that deal with the roles of religion in rebuilding and shaping society after a cataclysm including Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Sterling Lanier’s Heiro’s Journey and Orson Scott Card’s Folk on the Fringe. What I like about these books is that religion itself isn’t demonized, although people within the religious power structure do commit heinous acts. In Post Apocalyptic settings, religion can be used as a tool for suppression of knowledge. It is often shown as a perversion of good intentions, the apocalypse came about because man had lost their way, and the only way to get back on track is strident adherence to the will of God. This is always a dangerous road, because what truly is the will of God is subjective, and in the end, religious domination in post apocalyptic settings becomes about the will of man.

In The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan introduced us to Mary, a young girl living in an isolated gated community generations after a Zombie Apocalypse. Mary’s society is run by the sisterhood, who control all information about the rise of the unconsecrated and society before the collapse. After Mary’s mother is bitten by one of the undead, Mary is forced to move in with the sisterhood where her curious nature, and desire for the boy who is promised to another puts her in conflict with the sisterhood’s stern leader. Carrie Ryan’s writing has an old fashion classic feel to it that reminded me of Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter. I found the character of Mary both sympathetic and frustrating. Like many young adult and romance leads, I found Mary to be quite selfish, choosing to value her desires over that of the good of the others. The difference here is this is something Mary acknowledges. Her character has depths to her that I found refreshing, and I could easily forgive her selfishness based on the fact that any control of her life is out of her hands. She must wait for either her brother to bring her until her home, or a man to ask for her hand in marriage or she would be turned over to the sisterhood. She is given a stark, uncompromising choice of life in the sisterhood, or death, which in reality is no choice. Mary, and in particular her womb, is treated as a commodity a tool to propagate society, and she has to either accept this as her role, or rock the boat by looking for more. I really couldn’t blame Mary for the choices she made, and found her character fascinating. Ryan’s prose is often deliberate and sharp, and she creates a lot of tension with an economy of words. This works well with the action sequences, allowing the listener to easily follow what was going in in situations that can get quite muddled. The Forrest of Hands and Teeth exceeded all my expectations. It’s a beautifully told tale that takes many risks, most of which pay off well. It has a classic, almost historical feel, which you don’t find often in Zombie fiction.

Vane Millon’s narration was weirdly paced with strange pauses and inflections and early on in the narration she almost seemed uncomfortable with the narrative. She has an offbeat, exotic alto tone that was unlike the typical voice used by narrators in books featuring young female protagonist. I have to say, I totally loved it. Millon’s voice, with its early unsurity, and strange, almost vibrato tone brought a classic feel that perfectly matched the style of the novel. Her voice only highlighted the depths of Mary’s character. Something about Mary just felt different and this worked well to highlight a character breaking away from the accepted in a controlled civilization. I imagine there will be many who feel Millon’s narration less than stellar, yet, I found it refreshing. I am sort of sick of the squealing, high pitched, almost whiney voices often used in young adult novels. Sometimes that is appropriate to the text, here is wasn’t. I am sort of sad to see she has very little narration work on her resume, because based on her performance here, I would definitely want to check it out.

Audiobook Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

12 09 2011


How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Read by Kim Mai Guest

Listening Library

Length: 4 Hrs 13 Min

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: While not my typical choice of listens I found How I Live Now to have characters just engaging enough to care about, and the situation just plausible enough to fear. Along with the solid work of the narrator, this was a fun, quick listen that should appeal to fans of Young Adult Apocalyptic novels.

Grade: B

Every once in a while, I will finish up an audiobook earlier than I plan, and my next planned audiobook isn’t on my MP3 player, or is being released the next day, and I don’t really want to start some long, involved audiobook. When this situation comes up, I try to have small, 4-6 hour long audiobooks on my MP3 player to serve as place fillers. Often these will be something I usually don’t listen too. I recently found myself in such a situation, and going through my various options, I decided to check out a short novel I discovered while reading Presenting Lenore’s Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Book List. Now, it’s a given fact that I am a huge fan of Adult Post Apocalyptic novels. Rarely, but on occasion, I do check out a Young Adult Post Apocalyptic novel or series, especially when I get a recommendation, or I can’t escape the hype surrounding it. This time, I chose Meg Rosoff’s Young Adult Post Apocalyptic novel, called How I Live Now. How I Live Now is the story of a fifteen year old girl named Daisy, who is sent off by her father and "evil" stepmother to live in England with her cousins in their isolated rural home. While in England, a global war sets off, causing England to be occupied by an unnamed enemy force.

I have to say I enjoyed this quick read. Yes, it was not my typical style, full of awkward teen romance, of the forbidden kind, and all sorts of teen issues like dealing with family changes, and eating disorders. Yet, Rosoff didn’t take the afterschool special approach to these issues, just presented them from Daisy’s perspective, with no judgments, or unnecessary elaborations. Rosoff moves us into the crisis pretty quickly, allowing us to see how easily a modern country can be thrown out of whack. One of the interesting twists of the novel is how Daisy and her cousins are left without adult supervision, and seem to do fine dealing with the problems of the war, until well meaning adults (and not so well meaning government agencies) begin to meddle. I found the whole approach to the tale well done, and enjoyable on a surface level. Much of the novel is just a chronicle of survival, yet the emotional subtexts are always simmering under the surface. Rosoff also doesn’t fail to show the brutality of war and its impact on those involved. All in all, this novel may not appeal to those looking for a huge, brutal, multi-perspective End of the World novel. Yet, I found the characters just engaging enough to care about, and the situation just plausible enough to fear.

Kim Mai Guest narrated this tale, and was a good fit for the characters. Guest did an excellent job of portraying Daisy, with all her flaws. The essence of this story is the transformation of Daisy from a girl with teenage problems, and teenage perspectives, to a women handling adult issues, and making adult choices. Guest captured this transformation well. She did a decent job with the other characters as well, performing the British accents well, and properly presenting characters of all ages and genders. I found How I Live Now to be an interesting addition to the Post Apocalyptic sub genre that should appeal to young adult fans, as well as to adults looking for a more intimate end of the world tale.


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